Where are the men in new business departments?

New business is one of the most important roles in advertising - so it's time more men were given the chance to excel at it

Having proudly taken up the cudgel to smash our way through the glass ceiling and improve the woeful representation of women within agencies, there’s one area in which we’ve been particularly and, to my mind, shamefully quiet.

No one has deemed it fit to shine a light on one particular department and expose a shocking gender imbalance that is probably among the most skewed of any discipline in the industry.

I refer, of course, to new business departments. This most essential part of any agency – its very lifeblood - is shockingly and disgracefully dominated by women.

If you look at all of the top agencies – and those with the most successful new business records – and you’ll see that the person responsible for growing that business is most likely to be female.

And what’s more, they’ll likely have been fulfilling this role for many years, edging their way up the management greasy pole while denying anyone else the opportunity to give it a go.

Where are all the men? Why aren’t they being given the opportunities in this most crucial area? Whisper it if you dare – but is there some sort of sexism going on here; are men frozen out of something that has become a ‘girls club’?

And if so, why aren’t men in uproar about it and the industry doing something to rectify this terrible representation?

Well maybe it’s because agencies tend to hold onto women who have successfully moved into new business roles, expecting them to be happy with their lot (and in fairness, it is a great job).

But what does it mean for the younger, talented men out there who might also fancy having a stab at what is one of the more thrilling roles in advertising?

It’s possible that some old gender stereotyping exists in the back of some people’s minds – but new business stopped being about choosing flowers, dressing the room and getting the right biscuits a long time ago.

Far from being glorified and bubbly hostesses, new business is strategic and demands that the person doing is fully immersed in all areas of the agency, whilst displaying a resilience and determination that not everyone is lucky enough to have.

I think it’s time the ratio of women to men changed. Much like the 3% campaign to get more women into creative departments, we need to do something proactive to get more men into new business departments; to give them the opportunity to flourish in a department that could be their true calling but is otherwise denied of them.

Something has to change. And if a byproduct of this rebalancing is that more women move into general management roles, then so be it. It’s time to put that sexist old cliché that men can’t multitask out to pasture.

Cat Davis is chief growth officer for UK & Europe at Cheil London


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